A Cork activist has said that she will fight any incitement to hatred allegations made against her by a fundamentalist religious group founded by a Holocaust denier.
Mother-of-five Fiona O’Leary said that she "felt like she was in a Monty Python movie" as she was driven to Clonakilty Garda Station last week to be arrested on charges of incitement to hatred, trespass and harassment.
“I’m proud of my activism. I cannot believe that I now have to defend myself against Holocaust deniers," she said.
The complaints were made to gardaí by SSPX Resistance, a splinter group from the ultra-conservative, traditionalist Catholic Society of St Pius X (SSPX) which has set up a base in Reenascreena, near Ms O’Leary’s home in West Cork.
The group’s founder, Richard Williamson, has been convicted of Holocaust denial by a German court. He visited the rural Cork premises last year where he gave an anti-semitic sermon linking the Jewish people to Covid-19, thehas reported.
Since the pandemic, the group also controversially performed an exorcism at the Dáil which appeared to be in breach of Covid-19 regulations.
Ms O'Leary said that she was “stressed” and “shocked” by her arrest.
She alleges she was held and questioned in a small room at Clonakilty garda station for five hours in soaring temperatures.
She was later released without charge but a file has been sent to the DPP.
“It was really frightening,” she said.
“I was arrested for incitement to hatred when what they have done is illegal - Holocaust denial is a crime.
“I’m denying all these charges,” she said.
She said that she has received death threats, her family has been verbally abused and she has had Latin Masses chanted down the phone at her by unnamed individuals since she first spoke out about the group.
The group has been based at an old farmhouse in a remote part of West Cork near Rosscarbery since it was purchased by ‘Fr Giacomao Ballini’ in 2016,has reported.
Ms O'Leary first encountered the group while shopping at her local supermarket in Dunmanway.
“I saw these men float in wearing long, black cassocks. They wore no masks in Level 5 lockdown and did not use hand sanitiser," she said.
She later discovered that they were SSPX Resistance ‘priests’. She wrote about her discovery online, shared photos and contacted the press.
SSPX Resistance wants to see a return to the ultra-conservative, traditionalist Catholic Church of the past. They oppose the reforms introduced following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.
Ms O’Leary took photos of the priests she saw in the supermarket and published them online; she wrote about them on her blog and visited their West Cork base to question and photograph its leaders before the allegations against her were made.
Solidarity TD Mick Barry and Solidarity councillor Fiona Ryan expressed concerns over Ms O'Leary's arrest.
"She is to be commended for her work in highlighting the hateful ideas and activities of this group who have now taken up residence in her community," he said.